Fair Employment Agency is a nonprofit social enterprise that acts as an employment agency, matching foreign domestic workers to local household employers. It was set up in 2014 by a business school lecturer at Hong Kong University and two cofounders with the assistance of his students. Unscrupulous agencies flout the law, charging helpers extremely high fees, forcing them into debt bondage, making them vulnerable to abuse, overwork and other forms of mistreatment. FEA addresses a root cause of the problem from a commercial perspective.

Theory of Change

Adopting ethical business practices -- charging no fee to prospective employees, providing greater transparency about what to expect as well as referrals to social and legal services when needed, and providing ethical assurances to prospective employers, can reduce pervasively persistent human rights harms produced by an entire industry.

Activities

FEA conducts regular employment agency operations, with ethical business practices and increased transparency and referrals to social and legal services as needed. FEA intends to reshape an industry that, as a whole, tends to engage in shady practices in violation of Hong Kong law with relative impunity: charging fees to domestic helpers above the statutory maximum; illegally withholding passports; seizing property; etc. The critical difference with other intermediaries performing the same service in Hong Kong is that FEA charges a fee only to prospective employers, and not to the domestic workers, helping to eliminate the debt bondage that is often a key factor in keeping domestic workers stuck in abusive situations.

Results

FEA has been able to place more than 2,000 domestic workers in jobs without charging them any fees for its services. A few more agencies have emerged in recent years focusing on upholding ethical practices and empowering workers. The Fair Employment Foundation, which oversees the Fair Employment Agency in the city, also helped to launch a training center in Manila. Since its creation in November 2016, the center has charged a below-market rate as well as trained and sent about 160 workers to Hong Kong.